Chi­nese of­fi­cial sug­gests a trade com­pro­mise with U.S.

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS - By Keith Bradsher and Ana Swan­son

BEI­JING – A se­nior Chi­nese trade of­fi­cial on Saturday called for a com­pro­mise be­tween the United States and China that could make a trade deal eas­ier to reach this spring. But it could also lead to a more frag­ile agree­ment, which could fall apart quickly should trade fric­tions rise again.

Over the past year, the most con­tentious is­sue in the coun­tries’ trade talks has been the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­mand for what it calls an en­force­ment pro­vi­sion, which would al­low the United States to mon­i­tor China’s be­hav­ior and put penal­ties in place if the Chi­nese vi­o­lated the deal.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has pressed China to ac­cept an agree­ment al­low­ing the United States to uni­lat­er­ally reim­pose tar­iffs if it con­cludes that China has not gone through with struc­tural changes to its econ­omy. In the past month, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has also pushed for a broader en­force­ment mech­a­nism, which would in­clude the right to reim­pose tar­iffs for any cat­e­gory of goods in which im­ports from China surge.

In ex­change, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would roll back at least some of the tar­iffs it placed on $250 bil­lion of im­ports from China it im­posed last year, penal­ties that have strained ties be­tween the gov­ern­ments, rocked fi­nan­cial mar­kets and thrown the fu­ture of com­pa­nies that op­er­ate in both coun­tries in doubt.

Chi­nese of­fi­cials have strongly re­sisted the idea of an en­force­ment pro­vi­sion. They worry the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, or fu­ture ones, could in­voke it at any time to restart trade fric­tions.

But Wang Shouwen, China’s vice min­is­ter of com­merce for in­ter­na­tional trade ne­go­ti­a­tions, said China would be amenable to an agree­ment that gave each side an equal right to take trade ac­tions against the other side af­ter an agree­ment was struck.

Wang did not ad­dress an­other as­pect of the en­force­ment ques­tion that has deeply di­vided the United States and China.

While the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wants the right to reim­pose tar­iffs uni­lat­er­ally, China’s Com­merce Min­istry has fa­vored cre­at­ing a lengthy process of bi­lat­eral con­sul­ta­tions if ei­ther side has a griev­ance.

In tes­ti­mony be­fore Congress on Feb. 27, Robert Lighthizer, Pres­i­dent Trump’s top trade ne­go­tia­tor, out­lined a pos­si­ble method for en­forc­ing the deal un­der which the two sides would hold a reg­u­lar series of meet­ings at mul­ti­ple lev­els of gov­ern­ment, and, if China vi­o­lated the agree­ment, U.S. tar­iffs would spring back into force.

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